In the Theta Alpha Journal I read about praying for the Ukrainians. In our local church we pray for good outcomes from surgery. Frequently I hear comments like, “I’ll be praying for you today; hope it goes well!”
I am not criticizing this. I think wishing well of people, and thinking of them empathetically, is a good thing. But I think that prayer can be much more.
What God wants is our eternal happiness. Shouldn’t that be what we pray for as well? Nadine Rogers, in the Theta Alpha Journal, reminds us that those who lived in Jesus’ time were the first to expect Jesus to solve their earthly problem. It happened to be Roman oppression. We find this so obvious–those simple Jews, expecting God to solve their worldly problems!–then we pray for earthly things ourselves.
My friend Susie’s ex-husband had an affair, lied about it, initiated a divorce, and never expressed remorse. Susie once told me that in the depths of her shock, she still had a tiny inkling of clarity about the situation. “I knew I was actually okay,” she said, “but that he was in deep trouble.” He was the one to pray for, she said, not herself. She knew she was going to be okay. But him? She wasn’t sure at all.
How do we know what prayers line up with heavenly happiness? Maybe it’s the Russians, not the Ukrainians, that need our prayer. These days I pray for people to receive insights, to act courageously, to dare to see their own demons, to listen to their guardian angels, to see heaven where it appears in their lives.
I get put to the test often, myself. When my daughter Lamar was flying home from Peru with no phone (stolen), I badly wanted the flights to go smoothly. I have a brother-in-law whose body is inexplicably failing him, and it’s hard to imagine not praying for a return to health. Every time I start the engine on our sailboat as we get close to shore in the frigid waters of Lake Superior, a near-automatic supplication goes out. “Engine, please start.” Maybe we are really just needing to feel the Lord’s closeness at those times. Sometimes I am able to make my words match my intention. “Lord help me to feel your presence whatever happens.” “Lord, give us strength and courage to face the struggles ahead.” “Lord help me to remember how time heals, in as many moments as I can.”
Thanks to Jeremy Simons for finding and the Swedenborg Foundation for publishing this beautiful quote:
Regarded in itself, praying is talking with God, while taking an inward view of the things we are praying about. In answer we receive a similar stream of speech into the perceptions or thoughts of our mind, so that our inner depths open up to God, in a way. The experience varies, depending on our mood and the nature of the subject we are praying about. If we pray from love and faith and focus on or seek only what is heavenly and spiritual, something resembling a revelation emerges while we pray. It discloses itself in our emotions in the form of hope, comfort, or an inward stirring of joy. (Secrets of Heaven §2535)